Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs)

Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) are a specific category of service dogs, trained to perform tasks that help mitigate the psychiatric disabilities of their handlers.

There’s often confusion and debate surrounding PSDs, especially when distinguishing them from therapy dogs. A therapy dog is typically someone’s pet, trained, tested, registered, and insured to operate in settings like hospitals, nursing homes, schools, or other institutional environments. These dogs and their handlers work as volunteers (or occasionally as professionals) to provide comfort, alleviate stress, educate communities, and serve as exemplary canine ambassadors. However, therapy dogs are not considered service dogs.

Under U.S. law, therapy dog handlers do not have the legal right to bring their dogs into businesses or facilities where pets are usually not allowed unless they receive permission from the business. This limitation also applies to the places where they provide therapy services, such as hospitals and nursing homes. Additionally, therapy dogs are not entitled to travel in aircraft cabins nor do they have the right to live in “no pets” housing solely based on their status as therapy dogs.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs), which are not task-trained, are distinct from PSDs and other types of service dogs. ESAs provide comfort through their presence but are not trained to perform specific tasks related to a disability. While they are not considered service dogs, ESAs are recognized under housing laws and certain air travel regulations, allowing them some accommodations similar to service dogs.

It’s important to note that PSDs, in contrast to therapy dogs and ESAs, are specifically trained to perform tasks that address the needs of individuals with psychiatric disabilities. This training and the resulting tasks they perform qualify them as service dogs under U.S. law, granting them broader access to public spaces and accommodations.

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